Due to its rather hilly geography, the German city of Stuttgart has some quite iconic public transport systems. During a visit in January 2022, I had a look to the steepest rail operated by the local provider, the Stuttgart Funicular or Standseilbahn. Even though the ride is just some four minutes, a very fascinating experience. Here are my thoughts about the trip.
Stuttgart Funicular – Location & Fares
The Stuttgart Funicular is connecting the borough Heslach with the Forest Cemetery, which is located on a hill over the city. You can reach both stations by car. Especially close to the cemetery station, there is a major parking lot. As a tourist, however, you will likely take the underground / tram to the Südheimer Platz station. It is connected by three lines, U1, U9 and U34 and is just a few steps away from the lower terminus of the funicular. There are no other major attractions around, unfortunately.
Good news for historic transport fans: The Standseilbahn is indeed part of the Stuttgart local transport system VVS. It is listed as line #20 in the schedule. This also means that if you have a day ticket for the whole city (which is 5.40 EUR), the ride up and down the hill is for free (as often as you like). If you just like to ride the funicular, you need a KurzstreckenTicket (short distance ticket) for each ride, which is 1.50 EUR.
Stuttgart Funicular – The Route & Fare
The track length of the Stuttgart Funicular is 536m. In that distance, the climbs 87 meters and is thus the steepest trip on rails you can do as part of Stuttgart’s local transports. The Standseilbahn is operating every twenty minutes between 9:10 hrs and 17:50 hrs, daily. The travel time at a maximum speed of some 11km/h is roughly four minutes. Each station features ticket machines. Only while the wagons are moving, the access to the platform is blocked due to safety reasons.
The funicular was built to connect the cemetery. However, it finally took 14 years after the opening of the final resting places until the funicular finally became operational. In 2003, the engines of the systems got significantly renovated. You can see both engines, the historic and the new ones at the hill station. You only need 110 kW engine power to run the iconic public transport.
The two stations are rather simple. You may buy tickets at both stations at ticket machines. The cable car ride is the key attraction of the area, you may have some nice hikes or enjoy a drink and some cake at a cafe when you are uphill.
Stuttgart Funicular – The Rolling Stock
The traditional style funicular cars weigh some 8 metric tons each. Due to the cable car construction, the distance via the rope between the two cars is always constant. Both wagons are having an operator, which is always facing in the direction of travel. Only when both operators press a button, the rope is moving. The cars could carry some four tons of people or goods each – the in fact capacity might be slightly lower just due to the space. The design of the car stays traditional with a wooden touch.
I loved the interior of the wagons, which also gives a nice historic and nostalgic touch. There is heating in the cars, located underneath some of the seats. For these operational reasons, the cars are receiving electric energy by a contact wire. Due to Covid-19, the area, which is facing in the direction of travel, is blocked for the operator.
Stuttgart Funicular – The Ride
It is definitely the ride as such and enjoying the technology, which is turning the Stuttgarter Standseilbahn to a great traveling experience. The trip and the area is not too overwhelming – I finally decided to go for a direct return after the some 15 minute resting period of the cable car. Especially the first meters after leaving the valley station is really steep and gives some nice view over the borough. However, the view over all Stuttgart is blocked by trees.
Here are some pictures from inside the ride. In order to be able to take snaps and due to the blocking for the operator, I sat on seats opposite to traveling direction. This means that the first pictures are from the uphill ride facing downwards and then the downhill ride looking into the opposite direction. The pictures also show nicely the difference between the thick hauling rope, which is in fact connecting the two trains for the operation over the uphill engine wheel, and the thinner opposite rope, which is competing the circular rope system via the valley station.
Stuttgart Funicular – Services
Apart from the ticket machines, there are not too many services. You can grab an information brochure about this nice kind of transport, which I really liked. There is a public loo close to the cemetery station, which is, however, not operated by the Stuttgart Traffic System.
Stuttgart Funicular – My View
I love these kind of things – and I definitely recommend to have a ride with the Stuttgart Funicular. It is just nice technology, so easy to run it. The view is neither breathtaking en route nor on top, but it is just a great experience to do the trip. Last, but not least – it is practically free for most Stuttgart visitors, as you likely have some sort of ticket for Stuttgart local traffic anyway.
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